by Keyword: afm indentation

Pérez-Domínguez, S, Kulkarni, SG, Pabijan, J, Gnanachandran, K, Holuigue, H, Eroles, M, Lorenc, E, Berardi, M, Antonovaite, N, Marini, ML, Alonso, JL, Redonto-Morata, L, Dupres, V, Janel, S, Acharya, S, Otero, J, Navajas, D, Bielawski, K, Schillers, H, Lafont, F, Rico, F, Podestà, A, Radmacher, M, Lekka, M, (2023). Reliable, standardized measurements for cell mechanical properties Nanoscale 15, 16371-16380

Atomic force microscopy (AFM) has become indispensable for studying biological and medical samples. More than two decades of experiments have revealed that cancer cells are softer than healthy cells (for measured cells cultured on stiff substrates). The softness or, more precisely, the larger deformability of cancer cells, primarily independent of cancer types, could be used as a sensitive marker of pathological changes. The wide application of biomechanics in clinics would require designing instruments with specific calibration, data collection, and analysis procedures. For these reasons, such development is, at present, still very limited, hampering the clinical exploitation of mechanical measurements. Here, we propose a standardized operational protocol (SOP), developed within the EU ITN network Phys2BioMed, which allows the detection of the biomechanical properties of living cancer cells regardless of the nanoindentation instruments used (AFMs and other indenters) and the laboratory involved in the research. We standardized the cell cultures, AFM calibration, measurements, and data analysis. This effort resulted in a step-by-step SOP for cell cultures, instrument calibration, measurements, and data analysis, leading to the concordance of the results (Young's modulus) measured among the six EU laboratories involved. Our results highlight the importance of the SOP in obtaining a reproducible mechanical characterization of cancer cells and paving the way toward exploiting biomechanics for diagnostic purposes in clinics.

JTD Keywords: afm indentation, cancer cells, elastic-moduli, samples, stiffness, Atomic-force microscopy